Another Thankful Thursday, another thought on The Four Freedoms presented by Normal Rockwell as they relate to games and media. Be sure to check out the rest of the mini-series here.
The freedom of speech is in the first amendment of the United States Constitution, and it guarantees that citizens will not be inhibited by the government. Interestingly – and something that most citizens either don’t know or choose not to acknowledge – is that the government can put some limitations on when or where you can say something. This speaks to the old “you can’t scream ‘fire’ in a crowded theater’ example.
For instance, you can say in private all manner of lies about a person, but if you print them in a publication that gets read, you can get in a lot of trouble. And so on and so forth. After all, unfettered speech can be harmful, just as absolutely controlled speech can be harmful for other reasons.
Which brings us to games. We’ve talked a little bit about whether or not games can go too far and this article speaks to that in a different way. Many comments came in on that article, most of which took a middling ground on the subject, saying that while they might not personally agree with the topic, or think it should be made into a game, they would not play a game “like that” if it didn’t interest them.
I tend to come down on the side of some things should not be made for public consumption, even if I still think a person could create something for themselves. But any art has a right to exist. And, truly, even though my personal opinion is like that, I’m not sure how I feel about other people (or even myself) imposing on others what can be created or not. Let’s take a few examples.
We’ve talked before about how movies and games tend to have different standards when it comes to the topics they portray. For instance, a game like RiME, or perhaps to a greater extent, Unravel, takes on grief and, in the case of the latter, also memories/nostalgia as its poignant topics. Grief is a tough subject to broach in everyday life, as everyone’s experience is immensely personal, but these games take care to handle the topic with sensitivity and in a way that can speak to each person in an individualized way.
What about war games? Games like This War of Mine, Spec Ops: The Line, and Battlefield 1 are lauded as for their realistic portrayal of war, either from the perspective of a soldier, or of the innocent bystanders whose lives are torn apart by warring governments/factions.
And yet, a game like Six Days in Fallujah, a game that was meant to pay tribute to the soldiers involved in that battle, was criticized to the point of being cancelled. Was it because it was based on real events? Well, so is Battlefield 1, if we’re being honest.
Which leads us back to the question: when should games be allowed to be made? When does a person’s or game’s free speech end? Is it when the events are too soon, like the events in Six Days in Fallujah or 08:46? Or if they portray events that are almost-universally accepted as atrocious, such as killing children in Active Shooter?
For one, I am glad that we can have these discussions, that we are free to discuss openly and calmly how we may express ourselves, where, and how. I am thankful that we have a medium that is willing to tell us hard stories and put us into the action so we may be more empathetic when we speak. But I ask…
In common practice, free speech often ends when it impinges on the rights of another person, putting them in danger. But when it comes to games, where is that line? Is there a line when it comes to games? What game story are you most thankful for? Let me know in the comments!
Thanks for stopping by, and I’ll see you soon!
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Tough questions! Freedom of speech dilemmas are definitely hard to process. I agree that all art has a right to exist (games are art in my book), but shouldn’t necessarily be thrown out to the public, I think. In my mind, freedom of speech is NOT the freedom to be an ass to other people (like some idiots seem to think, haha).
So yeah there should probably be line, even if I’m not sure exactly where to put it. At the end of the day, I want that line to be the same across all mediums. Video games always seem to be on a shorter leash with the general public than movies, TV shows, music, and novels when it comes to backlashes….
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It’s always been a fuzzy line, I think, because one person’s rights technically end when they begin to infringe on another person’s rights, but where is that line? You’re right that video games have had it a little harder when it comes to debating that line, though.
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